Language Centre

Sanskrit Elementary Course

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Key information

1 term per sub-level; 10 weeks per term
Attendance mode
Part-time, online/blended learning

Course overview

This course aims to continue with the study of grammar and translation building on the skills acquired at the Beginners level.

You will commence your study of Sanskrit literature by tackling graded readings from the course textbook. There will be regular practice in reading and pronunciation of Sanskrit. 


The below will be achieved through 20 hours of blended learning: this is composed of 15 hours of online structured lessons with the teacher. This is supplemented by a minimum of 5 hours of guided independent learning supported by complementary material.

The course objective will be achieved within the 10-week course.

Elementary 1

It aims to build on the knowledge and capabilities acquired in Sanskrit Beginners. The course enables you to recognize and translate a range of grammatical forms and sentence constructions.

The first part of the course is dedicated to revision of selected topics, followed by an examination of compounds and elaboration on three main compound types (tatpuruṣa, karmadhāraya, bahuvrīhi). Another familiar aspect of the language, sandhi, is also deconstructed and the course proceeds to distinguish between consonant and vowel sandhi and their implications on sentence structure and cadence.

In terms of conjugation and declension, the present system is expanded to include the optative mood and the course ends with an introduction to consonant stems. The course completes the cycle of stories from the Hitopadeśa and introduces modified textbook examples from famous Mahābhārata passages like the Story of Śakuntalā.

Elementary 2

It follows on from Sanskrit Elementary 1 and begins with a revision of the important topic of consonant stems with one stem. This theme is then considerably expanded to include the characteristics of two & three variant consonant stems. Two mythological stories dominate the second term: ‘The Churning of the Ocean’ and ‘The Story of Sagara and his Sons’.

Both are used to elucidate the grammatical principles being taught, as well as to enlarge your vocabulary and ability to analyse complex sentences, clauses and sub-clauses. A prominent and distinctive feature of the Sanskrit language is a separate mechanism for describing the dual number, and this topic is explored in some detail.

The future, past perfect and imperative tenses are added to your repertoire of conjugation, and at the end of the term, revision and consolidation of the topics covered.

Elementary 3

It aims to continue the formal study of the grammar of the Sanskrit language and to give you the opportunity to expand your knowledge of the grammar of the languages and to further your capabilities in engaging with Classical Sanskrit with increasing confidence.

Most of this term is dedicated to the introduction & detailed study of non-thematic verbs, with the unique characteristics of each class being highlighted and analysed individually. A new voice is added to the repertoire of active and middle verbs, and the passive – a very prevalent construction – is further explored. ‘The Story of Sagara’, which is closely intertwined with the study of the non-thematic verb classes, is gradually brought to a close.

The course concludes with an overview of the topics covered at the Elementary level, and with a forward look at the next level of study (Pre-Intermediate).


Elementary 1-3 will be based on the textbook: The Cambridge Introduction to Sanskrit, by A.M. Ruppel

Course materials are not included in the course fee and can be purchased from the SOAS bookshop (We strongly recommend waiting until your course is confirmed before purchasing the textbook).

Entry requirement and progression route

To join Elementary 1, you should have completed Sanskrit Beginners 3 at SOAS Language Centre or have an equivalent level. You are expected to be familiar with the devanāgarī script and with the basic concepts of Sanskrit grammar. To join Elementary 2 or 3 you should have completed Elementary 1 and 2 respectively at SOAS Language Centre or have an equivalent knowledge of guided learning hours (20 hours blended learning per each sub-level). The progression route from Sanskrit Elementary 3 is to Sanskrit Pre-Intermediate 1; from Pre-Intermediate 2 to Pre-Intermediate 3.

Please note, that each term, courses are subject to quorum requirements.

For course dates and information, please see our timetables.


Sanskrit Elementary 1

By the end of the course you should be able to:

  • revision of Sanskrit Beginners
  • declensions and conjugations
  • atmanepada verbs
  • the past passive participle revisited
  • ‘A Panorama of Indian Life’ (pp. 147-8)
  • compounds: tatpuruṣa; karmadhāraya, bahuvrīhi
  • ‘The Training of 4 Wayward Princes’ (pp. 165-6)
  • the relative pronoun
  • ‘The Ascetic and the Tiger’ (p, 178)
  • consonant sandhi
  • regressive and progressive assimilation
  • the optative mood
  • vowel sandhi
  • ‘The Story of Śakuntalā’ (pp. 188-9)
  • consonant stems: introduction
  • ‘The Story of Purūravas and Urvaśī’ (pp. 208-9)

Sanskrit Elementary 2

By the end of the course you should be able to:

  • revision of Sanskrit Elementary 1
  • consonant stems with three variants
  • ‘The Churning of the Ocean’ (pp, 222-3; 233-4)
  • compounds: Privative; dvandva
  • the future tense
  • ‘The Churning of the Ocean’ (Cont’d)
  • past active participles
  • the dual
  • more on pronouns
  • the past perfect tense
  • ‘The Story of Sagara and His Sons’ (pp. 262-3)
  • The imperative mood
  • ‘The Story of Sagara and His Sons’ (Cont’d)

Sanskrit Elementary 3

By the end of the course you should be able to:

  • revision of Sanskrit Elementary 2
  • adjectives of direction
  • noun Stems in -ṛ
  • non-thematic verbs: class V
  • non-thematic verbs: class VIII
  • non-thematic verbs: class III
  • non-thematic verbs: class IX
  • non-thematic verbs: class II
  • non-thematic verbs: class VII
  • ‘The Story of Sagara and His Sons’ (End)
  • the passive voice
  • Sanskrit prosody
  • revision and preparation for next level of study

The above is an indication of content that may be covered over the duration of the course but it could vary depending on the level and progress of students in the class.

Contact us


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

See the full list of Language Centre short courses in Sanskrit.

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